A Beautiful 14-Minute Meditation on Finding Home

by Donna Torney on March 25, 2015 · 0 comments

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With so many benefits of mindfulness summarized for you here in three minutes, you’ll want to have your cushion handy for minutes four, five and six…..

We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!

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Brené Brown on Empathy

by Donna Torney on March 1, 2015 · 0 comments

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images Pillars 7 through 9 of the Foundations of Well-Being program teach you how to regulate your nervous system by – bringing balance, effectiveness, and direction to your thoughts, emotions, bodily states, desires, actions, and relationships.

Pillar #7 – Calm

The brain’s negativity bias makes us tend to overreact to the negative and minimize the positive. One aspect of this bias is a vulnerability to “paper tiger paranoia” – the overestimating of threats and the underestimating of opportunities and resources.

As our ancestors evolved, it made sense to jump away from a hundred imagined threats to protect themselves from one real one. But in the modern world, threats are usually less deadly and unforgiving. You’ll learn how to see the world more clearly, including its real threats, and when it’s true – as it usually is – cultivate the powerful experience that you are really “alright right now.”

Pillar #8 – Motivation

In some ways the key to a good life is learning to want the things that are good for you – that you don’t yet truly want. This Pillar focuses on identifying important desires and actions, and then associating these with actual or anticipated rewards, so your brain will increasingly incline in the right direction.

The mind/brain is always looking for something new to want. You’ll become more aware of this and more able to nudge your things in a good direction. This way, you can experience the pleasant without “going red” into chasing it.

Then you become increasingly centered in the healthy self-discipline that comes from the inside out, rather than being pushed and prodded “top-down” by the bossy voices in your head.

Pillar #9 – Intimacy

We evolved to be the most social species on the planet. Our social lives are largely built around balancing two great themes: autonomy and intimacy.

Humans have natural desires to both “draw closer towards” and “separate from” those around us. We want to develop a strong sense of individuality (autonomy) while also feeling connected to those we care about (intimacy).

By strengthening your awareness of disturbances in the connection system, including hurt, resentment, envy, jealousy, quarreling, inadequacy, loneliness, and shame, you can avoid “going red” when the oatmeal starts to fly. We’ll explore how to be more comfortable with being both “me” and “we,” how to strengthen the three neural substrates of empathy, and how to swim in the deeper waters of intimacy without drowning.

If you are finding this series of articles interesting, or want to hardwire more happiness, resilience, self-worth, love, and peace into your brain and your life, I hope you’ll consider joining me for the Foundations of Well-Being!

UnknownRick Hanson Ph.D.

Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist, a Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and a New York Times best-selling author. His books include Hardwiring Happiness, Buddha’s Brain, Just One Thing, and Mother Nurture. Founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, he’s been an invited speaker at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide. His free Just One Thing newsletter has over 100,000 subscribers.

This post was originally published at Eusophi.com.

Mindful hub:  We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!

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Is Mindfulness Just a Fad?

by Donna Torney on February 4, 2015 · 0 comments

Unknown-1I’m going to share some of the fads I’ve lived through.  When I was a little girl my parents drove one of these.  Happy memories!! ………………

 … Meanwhile in middle school (which was known as junior high) I wanted my hair to look like this ….it never did……..images

Trying to convince a skeptic?  Here’s a free worksheet that lists some of the physical and mental benefits of mindfulness and yoga

 

As an undergraduate at the State University I majored in business, because that’s what everyone else was doing (not very mindful).

Unknown-5  No excuses but this guy was president (we weren’t a very mindful country).…..Unknown-8

        

 

 

…Most of my friends still typed there their term papers  on one one of theseUnknown-9

…Regular readers of mindful hub will now know what a disaster this was for me.   Lot’s of Liquid White-Out was required.
 

 

At the University I joined one of these fine organizations………………….Unknown-3

 

 

Which unfortunately led to a lot of this………………
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There were no “wellness centers” on college campuses back then……..

On the rare occasions we were thinking about being kind to our bodies we were likely to pop one of these into the VCR……………………..

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Luckily, in my thirties I found this……………………..Unknown-6

 

                                                                          Which not only led me to getting better at this important job………images-1
………but also led me to getting a degree in psychological counseling focusing on Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy.  So here I am riding the “mindfulness wave” helping the next generation of young adults deal with their own fads……….

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But is mindfulness just a fad?  Are the benefits of mindfulness oversold, much like striped leotards and leggings were in the 80s?

We would love to hear from you.  This is your chance to join an important conversation.  There’s a rumor going around that mindfulness is just a sales pitch.  Do you think mindfulness is just a fad?

Please share your own mindfulness story.  Tell us how mindfulness has changed your life.   contact us or leave a comment. You just might help someone else change for the better.

We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day! 

Ready to dive deeper into well-being?  Join us for the science-based, neuropsychologist-led Foundations of Well-Being program.  Chock full of proof that mindfulness is here to stay.  Click on the banner below for more info.

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Napping is the New Black

by Donna Torney on February 2, 2015 · 0 comments

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Two snowstorms in two weeks have turned my thoughts to taking advantage of the dark, short days, and hibernation.  If only we were allowed, like bears, to turn off our metabolism, tuck in the kids, and wake up in April…..   Soon enough, however, we will be ushering in spring and sunnier days, and we may forsake napping, faces turned up toward the blue sky, for extra activity.  In the mean time, trust in the science behind the benefits of napping, yoga, meditation, and other related restoration:

Don’t brag about your sleep deprivation like you would brag about your new BMW.  We are no longer impressed.  Napping is the new black.

Research shows that napping and resting boost creativity and problem solving.  Scientists at NASA rely on rested astronauts to make 40% fewer mistakes.  Today, allow yourself to take a mindful siesta.  Make mid-day downtime a firm commitment in your schedule.  If you can actually lay down, do so for only twenty to thirty minutes.  The ideal nap is a light sleep that leaves you feeling refreshed, not groggy.  If you can’t lay down, you can rest by moving away from your computer and taking some gentle stretches.  If you absolutely can’t move away from your screen try a meditation app like calm.com or headspace and focus on your breathing, allowing yourself to luxuriate in a half-awake state.  Don’t brag about your sleep deprivation like you would brag about your new BMW.  We are no longer impressed.  Napping the new black.

Most Americans are sleep-walking around with a big sleep deficit.  If you are feeling fatigued consider the following.

1.  Go to sleep at the same time every night.

2.  Use your bed for sleep and (ah-hem) sex only.  That means not catching up on past seasons of Downton Abbey or Orange is the New Black.   Make eight hours of sleep the new black.

3.  Learn how to relax your mind and body on cue.  Don’t think this is possible?  Either did I but we can learn!  ( Ask anyone who knew me as a teen or young adult – Like most of us I was the opposite of mindful.)  Check out our post on Yoga Nidra to learn how to relax your body in an New York minute.

4.  Keep your naps short and toward the middle of the day – can’t stress this enough – especially if you struggle with insomnia.

5.  Choose tea and toast or milk and oatmeal as your evening snack over alcohol.

6.  Turn the lights out!  Especially computer screens.  Any blue light from LED screens tells your brain to stay awake.

Need more incentive to nap?  Visit the National Sleep Foundation website.

We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!

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The Science and Art of Yogic Napping

by Donna Torney on February 2, 2015 · 0 comments

ASF-Photo-3Yoga nidra (which means “yogic sleep”) is an ancient form of deep relaxation.    When I first heard about yoga nidra I was skeptical, since I’ve  tried using different variations of the body scan over the years with little success.  Like a lot of people I have a hard time relaxing unless I’m exhausted.   But after using Jennifer Reis’ yoga nidra CDs and finally attending one of her trainings this past month I’ve come to appreciate as the science and art of yoga nidra, and I can more easily drop into a mini-nap or at least a state of deep and restorative relaxation.

Much more than your average body scan, The science behind yoga nidra is being used to help returning vets, after a 2006 study conducted at the Walter Reed Medical Center convinced military health care providers to start using yoga nidra (code name iRest), to help vets recover from PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury.

The art behind yoga nidra makes it much more than a body scan.  It never occurred to me to releases the tension inside my cheeks and my eyeballs until I listened to one of Jennifer’s CDs.  But it was a life-changing moment.  Of course we hold tension inside the mouth!  The jaw is one of the strongest muscles in the body.  Most of us walk around with clenched jaws without even knowing it, sending a signal to our nervous system that something is wrong, which in turn releases cortisol into your blood stream, creating more stress.  You can get a taste of yoga nidra right now by taking a few breaths and relaxing the inside and outside of your mouth, sending a signal to you nervous system that everything is okay!  Ahhhh…. amazing isn’t it?

We highly recommend adding yoga nidra to your stress reduction tool box.  You can access Jennifer’s cds on our resource page. Learn more about yoga nidra and Irest at the following links.

Check out this poignant PBS video clip about vets and yoga

Learn more about the iRest program

Learn more about Jennifer Reis

Have you had success with yoga nidra?  Please share your story with other mindful hub readers.

Join mindful hub in participating in the self-guided Foundations of Well-Being program to learn how to access instant relaxation. Click the banner below for more info:

We wish you twenty minutes of peace every day!

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In this second of four posts summarizing the Foundations of Well-Being Program we will look at tools for resourcing your strengths:

Resourcing – finding and growing those things in your mind, body, and world that protect, support, encourage, guide, ease, and inspire you

The resourcing pillars include:

Pillar #4 – Vitality

To be and to feel safe, we must develop a basic sense of aliveness, energy, and can-do capability – in a word, vitality.

So it’s important to address blocks to vitality, such as numbing, negative judgments about your body, or indifference to your health. You can develop more kindness toward your body, as well as release any feelings of helplessness related to it.

This Pillar of the Foundations program contains a down-to-earth summary of effective ways to improve your diet, exercise, and sleep. We explore how a person’s lifestyle could harm the body and lower vitality, and how to do (and keep doing!) realistic things to change this.

Vitality also involves a sense of grit, determination, patience, and the capacity to endure and not be overwhelmed by stressful or upsetting experiences. We’ll cover how to develop these strengths, and also how to use the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) in skillful ways to rev up to avoid harms (fostering safety) without tipping into the red zone.

 

Pillar #5 – GratitudeUnknown

Well-being has two components:

  • Hedonia – pleasure, delight, happiness at the happiness of others, love, sensuality, accomplishment, joy, cheering on a favorite team, comfort, etc.
  • Eudaimonia – fulfillment, sense of meaning or purpose, overall satisfaction in life; for example, getting up at night to walk a crying baby may lack hedonic rewards – your back hurts and you’d rather be asleep – but it feels deeply important, the most fulfilling thing you’ve ever done.

Gratitude and gladness – the sense of receiving and enjoying the gifts, beauties, and pleasures of life – feeds both hedonia and eudaimonia. Unfortunately, many people develop mental blocks throughout life around feeling truly valuable or worthy, minimizing their ability to absorb the good around them and feel grateful.

This program will cover two big areas to increase your capacity for Gratitude, allowing you to take more pleasure from the little things in life:

  • Heightening your sensory awareness, which allows you to take greater pleasure through seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling, and imagining.
  • Recognizing and releasing any inhibitions on experiencing pleasure, gladness, and joy.

The essence of gratitude is developing an increasingly unconditional sense of happiness, less and less dependent on external conditions. Through the Foundations program we’ll put you on the path to getting there!

Pillar #6 – Confidenceimages

We have natural needs to feel seen, understood, recognized, included, and valued. There’s nothing wrong with this! Having these needs fulfilled, particularly during childhood has a variety of positive consequences: secure attachment, resilience, self-regulation, optimism, self-worth, and exploration. The resources that fulfill these needs are sometimes called “healthy narcissistic supplies.”

On the other hand, not meeting our interpersonal needs can lead to insecure attachment, reactivity, poor self-control, pessimism, inadequacy, and withdrawal.

Whether positive or negative, these traits often carry over from childhood to adulthood.

“Confidence” in the deepest sense is an umbrella term referring to a sense of worth in your core – that you are loved and lovable, giving and contributing, valued, and a good person. We grow this sense of true confidence through repeatedly internalizing a sense of worth. This enables us to stretch our wings and fly high, knowing that there’s a goodness and loveableness inside that we can rely upon in times of trouble.

In effect, we grow strong “inner allies” that protect us from our “inner critics.”

In the next post in this series we’ll take a look at the three pillars the help us regulate the nervous system, allowing to make better connections and manage the ups and downs of life.

We wish your twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!

To find out more about the Foundations to Well-Being training, click on the banner below:

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imagesLast year I worked with a young man who just ended a three-year relationship. I watched as he went through the process of desperately holding on, blaming himself, and feeling completely shattered and rejected.  As a therapist I am able to stay detached from the suffering and let compassion lead the way, but If you are close to a young adult, maybe your own child, you know there is nothing more painful to watch.

I remembered the feeling of losing a love – you may too – going from being joined at the hip to feeling like you have just lost a limb.  As an older adult helping a younger adults through this process you may rationally know it can be a good learning experience but it can be very frightening to watch.    I remember my feelings of helplessness as  my own daughter mourned the loss of her beloved a few years ago.   In a bit of a panic, I did a good job of  dreaming up worse-case scenarios – perhap  this very normal right of passage might make her do something impulsive and dangerous, or worse, turn into a full-blown depression.

Then I remembered the importance of just being present.   I took a few deep breaths as I rubbed her back, remembering that all I needed to do was be a witness, just like I am with the young adults in my therapy practice, and honor her emotions. I did not need to come up with some clever solution, distract her with gifts, or spurt out tired but true wisdom like “time heals.” As I let go of trying to fix, and let myself simply be a witness to her pain, something shifted. I could feel us both relax a little.

Take a look at our free worksheet – minding a broken heart

If you use our content, please consider making a small donation to mindful hub to keep us free from distracting advertising and user fees.

 

We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!

Dr. Rick Hanson’s Foundations of Well-Being program can help you cultivate a resilient heart.  This program is an on-going, on-line, self-paced training based on practical neuroscience to help you boost your personal or professional mindfulness practice.  CEUs are available for health care professionals.  Click on the banner below for more details.

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How do you go from fight or flight to tend and befriend?   Rick Hanson, Ph.D., the New York Times best-selling author of Hardwiring Happiness and Buddha’s Brain has created the Foundations of Well-Being program to help yUnknown-2ou re-wire your brain by practicing positive neuroplasticity. Dr. Hanson is a neuropsychologist and leading expert in positive neuroplasticity, the science of teaching people to train their brain to develop stronger tendencies towards happiness, love, and wisdom. His new online program, The Foundations ofWell-Being, is a great resource for anyone who wants a greater sense of deep, abiding happiness!

The following guest-posts by Dr. Hanson focuses on developing the “Pillars of Well-Being,” the twelve foundational inner strengths that promote overall wellness. 

Millions of years of evolution have embedded in our brains a negativity bias that helped our ancestors pass on their genes. Ancient animals, hominids, and early humans had to make a critical decision many times a day: do you approach a reward or avoid a hazard — pursue a carrot or duck a stick? But there’s a key difference between carrots and sticks. If you miss out on a carrot today, you’ll have a chance at more carrots tomorrow. But if you fail to avoid a stick today – WHAP! – no more carrots forever. Compared to carrots, sticks usually have more urgency and impact in terms of raw survival.

This approach is a great way to pass on gene copies, but a lousy way to promote long-term health, satisfying relationships, inner peace, and success. So I created the Foundations of Well-Being, based on the evolution of the human brain. The program teaches the fundamental methods of positive neuroplasticity – how to turn everyday experiences into lasting, beneficial changes in neural structure and function – and then applies these methods to growing psychological resources inside yourself, such as relaxation, feeling protected, grit, determination, sense of accomplishment, gladness, compassion, patience, empathy, and feeling cared about.

During the reptile, mammal, and primate/human phases of evolution, the brain developed its brainstem, subcortex, and cortex. Consequently, there is a kind of lizard, mouse, and monkey inside us all. I know this is a goofy metaphor, but it sure feels sometimes like there’s a little zoo inside the head! Today, the brain works as a whole to meet our core needs – for safety, satisfaction, and connection – by Avoiding harms, Approaching rewards, and Attaching to others. These needs and systems are loosely related to the reptilian (brainstem), mammalian (subcortex), and primate/human (cortex) structure of the brain. In effect, to put it loosely, we need to pet the lizard, feed the mouse, and hug the monkey in order to develop the healing, effectiveness, loving heart, and ordinary happiness we all long for. The question of course, is HOW to do this.

The answer takes us to the four primary factors of well-being:

  • Recognizing – seeing the truth inside and outside you; understanding what leads to the happiness and welfare of yourself and others, and what leads to suffering and harm
  • Resourcing – finding and growing those things in your mind, body, and world that protect, support, encourage, guide, ease, and inspire you
  • Regulating – bringing balance, effectiveness, and direction to your thoughts, emotions, bodily states, desires, actions, and relationships
  • Relating – bringing your well-being into life; expressing yourself authentically, ethically, and skillfully; embodying and enacting your abilities and talents

Applying these four factors to our three core needs gives us the 12 Pillars of Well-Being – key inner strengths for greater happiness, love, and wisdom:

                          Recognizing           Resourcing           Regulating            Relating

Safety              Self-Caring                 Vitality                    Calm                  Courage

Satisfaction     Mindfulness             Gratitude             Motivation          Aspiration

Connection       Learning                Confidence             Intimacy              Service

Each month we focus on a new Pillar. When you use the Foundations program to develop these twelve strengths, you repeatedly weave experiences of safety, satisfaction, and connection into your brain – and build up an increasingly unconditional sense of peace, contentment, and love.

Even if you’re not planning on participating in the program, understanding these Pillars and how they work in daily life can be a great way to further your well-being. So here’s a quick summary of each one.

RecognizingUnknown-3

Pillar #1 – Self-Caring

A basic model in healthcare says that your life is shaped by three kinds of things: challenges, vulnerabilities, and resources. Of these, you can usually affect resources the most.

Resources are located in the world, the body, and the mind. Mental resources, inner strengths like gratitude, confidence, calm, self-acceptance, determination, compassion, assertiveness, and happiness are often the easiest and quickest to develop.

Developing inner strengths – growing the good inside yourself – means using your mind to change your brain for the better. To do this in the flow of daily life, you have to care about yourself and feel that you matter. So we’ll focus on three things:

  • Getting on your own side; being a friend to yourself
  • Self-acceptance and self-compassion
  • Opening to the longings in your heart. What do you wish was better in your life?

Pillar #2 – Mindfulness

The Prefrontal lobe region of the brain, responsible for self-regulation, is strengthened during mindfulness meditation The Prefrontal lobe region of the brain, responsible for self-regulation, is strengthened during mindfulness meditation

The mind changes the brain based on its experiences. Scientists call this “experience-dependent neuroplasticity.” Another way to say it is that “neurons that fire together, wire together.” Therefore, sustained attention to beneficial – and usually enjoyable – experiences is the primary pathway to changing the brain for the better. So training attention through mindfulness practices is really valuable.

As mentioned earlier, the brain has a negativity bias. It looks for bad news, over-focuses on it, over-reacts to it, and quickly stores the whole package in emotional memory. The brain also has two basic settings: the Responsive “green zone” that is the resting state of the brain – our natural home base – and the Reactive “red zone” we enter when we feel stressed or upset. Because of the negativity bias, we are vulnerable to getting stuck in the Red Zone – a major reason to learn how to use your mind to change your brain to change: what the Foundations program is all about.

Developing greater mindfulness:

  • Helps you sustain present-moment awareness and better absorb the small, everyday positive experiences that make up most of life.
  • Helps you recognize when you’re getting pulled into the red zone, and see how to get out of it and come home to your brain’s Responsive mode

Pillar #3 – Learning

There is a two-stage process to learning: experiences held in short-term memory buffers must be transferred to long-term storage; mental states must be encoded as neural traits; activation must be followed by installation.

We grow traits by turning passing experiences into lasting neural structure; traits come from states. Inner strengths are thus beneficial traits acquired through the internalization – the encoding – of beneficial states. Beneficial states that are not installed in the brain are wasted, with little to no learning, little to no lasting value.

Unfortunately, most informal and formal efforts at psychological healing and personal growth – including psychotherapy, coaching, human resources development, and mindfulness training – put little focus on the installation stage of learning. There’s an assumption that if people are having beneficial thoughts, feelings, and other experiences, that’s all they need, and somehow change for the better will magically happen on its own.Unknown-4

But healing and growing doesn’t usually just happen on its own – especially given the negativity bias: a kind of well-intended universal learning disability in a brain that’s been ruthlessly shaped for peak performance by Stone Age conditions. As a result, the brain is really good at learning from bad experiences but relatively bad at learning from good ones – even though learning from good experiences is the main way to grow the inner strengths you need most.

Taking in the Good is my informal term for deliberately internalizing beneficial experiences in order to grow resilience, happiness, and other inner strengths – and to beat the negativity bias. How do you do it? Remember that learning – including the emotional, motivational, attitudinal learning that we all care about – is a two-stage process, moving from activated mental state to installed neural trait. This gives us the four steps of taking in the good, summarized in the acronym HEAL:

Activation

  1. Have a beneficial experience.

Installation

  1. Enrich it.
  2. Absorb it.
  3. Link positive and negative material. [optional]

Using these steps boosts the impact of any given positive experience and increases the likelihood that it imprints on your neural structure, thereby becoming an installed trait. Positive experiences become key resources you can draw on to help heal old pain and fill the hole in your heart. And we apply the HEAL process to grow each one of the Pillars inside you.

Check back tomorrow to learn about the next four pillars in the Foundations of Well-Being Program or click on the banner bellow for more details.

CEUs are available for health care providers who complete the program.

We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!

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